Democracy, as it has come to be known today, is “a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives”
In every definition or explanation of the concept of “Democracy”, the people will always occupy a pride of place. Perhaps the most succinct definition of democracy is the one given by the late late lawyer, statesman and 16th American President, Abraham Lincoln.
“Democracy” as espoused by the late cerebral American president, Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address of November 19, 1863, is “government of the people, by the people and for the people”.
Democracy, as a government of the people, must, at all times, be people-centred and people-driven, so the political actors, in taking decisions and in executing resolutions and policies, must always have the people uppermost in their minds because the offices they occupy are at the behest of the people, who voted for them; they hold such offices in trust for the people, so their allegiance first and foremost, must be to the people.
The present All Progressives Congress (APC)-dominated Senate, showed that it understands the true meaning of democracy when, with one voice, the senators rejected President Muhammadu Buhari’s nomination of Lauretta Onochie’s as a national commissioner in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The unanimous decision by the southern governors who, irrespective of party affiliation, to vote against open grazing in the famous Asaba meeting is another demonstration of democracy in action. The 17 governors of the south cut across the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the APC and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) but irrespective of party lines, they all saw what was good for their people and voted against the open grazing policy being pushed forward by the APC-controlled federal government.
House of Reps members, who again, despite party divides, lent their voices to e-transmission of election results, when the federal government and the APC as a party, were opposed to it. That was a good display of courage and a demonstration of understanding of how democracy works.
Also to stand up to be recognized as gladiators of democracy are the South South senators who staged a walkout when their colleagues opted for 3% instead of the agreed 5%, for host communities, when the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) was being debated.
It is noteworthy that it was Senator Seriake Dickson, representing Bayelsa West Senatorial District at the red chambers, that spearheaded the walk-out. And, as if on cue, all the other South South senators, irrespective of party affiliation, joined Dickson in the March out of the floor of the House.
Senator Dickson again demonstrated courage when he stood up, on the floor of the House, to challenge his colleague, Senator Aishatu Dahiru, representing Adamawa Central, who said something about Bayelsa’s “small population”, a statement Dickson did not find funny.
According to a Nigerdeltaconnect report, trouble started during plenary when Senator Dahiru took a swipe at Bayelsa State, saying Mubi North’s population of 2,089,540 was much higher than the entire population of Bayelsa State which is currently 1,704,515.
The senator made reference to Bayelsa when she led a debate on the general principles of the Bill for an Act to provide the legal framework to establish the Federal Medical Centre, Mubi, Adamawa State, and related matters (2021), which she sponsored.
Angered by her submissions, Senator Dickson quickly raised up his hand which the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan mistook for an intention to contribute to the debate and obliged him.
Dickson, who lampooned the Adamawa senator, faulted her claim on Bayelsa population. He declared that figures presented by Senator Dahiru were not verifiable, arguing in a slightly angry but calculated tone that the size of Bayelsa, the physical land mass and the water bodies were thrice bigger than some states in the country.
He said: “In my senatorial district, it will take me four days to go round. In my local government, Sagbama, it will take me three days to go round. I just felt I should rise to enlighten the sponsor of this bill and by so doing, the rest of the country.
“When people talk about population, they should be careful because if you go deep and ask who conducted the census, who verified what and what are counted, who are the residents and how justifiable? Debates and submissions in this hallowed chamber must be based on justifiable fact”, Dickson concluded.
What the Bayelsa Senator did, attacking the submissions of a colleague in the floor of the House, was clearly against the standing orders of the National Assembly but at that point Dickson did not care. His singular concern was to defend his state and the interest of the people. It took the intervention of the Senate President, Lawan, to settle the difference between both senators.
The aforementioned persons, group of persons and institutions, for jettisoning party affiliation and standing solidly by their people, they qualify as my heroes of Democracy.